Socialist Worker

They forge documents to smear their enemies

by Hazel Croft
Issue No. 1849

NEWSPAPERS have been incredulous at the idea that the secret services could have forged the documents that purport to show that George Galloway received money from Saddam Hussein. In fact the intelligence services have used forgeries and concocted evidence time after time to discredit people and governments.

As even a columnist in the Daily Express, Richard M Bennett, noted last week, 'There is a history of campaigns run by intelligence services to destroy opponents of either the government or the establishment.'

In the 1970s the British intelligence services conducted the most extraordinary campaign of dirty tricks to smear Harold Wilson's Labour government. Wilson's 1974 government was far from left wing.

But the security services were panicking over the scale of the working class revolt which swept Britain in the early 70s. They went for anyone who they didn't see as fully signed up to the ruling class project.

A British MI5 intelligence operation known as Clockwork Orange, led by army information officer Colin Wallace, conducted a dirty tricks operation to smear the Republican movement in Northern Ireland, and then the Labour government itself.

Incredibly they believed not only that Harold Wilson and many Labour ministers were Soviet agents, but also that Tory leader Edward Heath was one too. Wallace's 'black propaganda' team forged a variety of Labour Party leaflets. These included a fake copy of a leaflet for a commemoration of Bloody Sunday, when British Paras murdered 14 unarmed civilians.

Five senior Labour figures were added to the list of sponsors for the Bloody Sunday event. These were Merlyn Rees, Stan Orme, Tony Benn, Paul Rose and David Owen. Rees was a right winger in the Labour Party, as was David Owen who would later go on to found the right wing breakaway, the SDP.

They also forged a document supposedly sent to Merlyn Rees by the US Congress thanking him for his 'generous donation on behalf of the Labour Party for the Occupied Six Counties of Ireland'. And they wrote a fake pamphlet titled Economics: Master or Servant of Mankind, which called for revolution.

Denis Healey was listed as one of the authors of the pamphlet, despite the fact he was on Labour's right. Wallace was sacked from his job in 1975 after he refused to continue working on Clockwork Orange.

In 1980 he was framed for the manslaughter of Jonathan Lewis and sentenced to ten years in prison. His story is powerfully exposed in Paul Foot's book, Who Framed Colin Wallace? Wallace's allegations were confirmed in 1988 by former MI5 officer Peter Wright in his book Spycatcher, in which he said a gang of ultra-right fanatics in MI5 had plotted against Wilson's government in 1974 and 1975. He admitted MI5 had carried out burglaries of the homes of Wilson's Downing Street staff and bugged 10 Downing Street itself.

On a Panorama TV programme he confessed, 'Eight or nine officers were involved. Their intention was to confront the prime minister with his MI5 file and tell him 'that we wanted him to resign. That there would be no publicity if he just quietly went'.'

After he resigned Wilson himself complained of the activities of MI5 and MI6 in undermining his government. The plot had also included forged documents that supposedly exposed a 'secret' Swiss bank account belonging to then deputy leader of the Labour Party Edward Short.

In July 1974 details of the bank account were sent out to MPs and newspapers (including Socialist Worker) which supposedly showed that Short had received several thousand pounds from a mysterious source.

The smear stuck to Short. But a police report several months later confirmed that the bank account did not exist and that the document was a forgery. In the 1980s Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times ran an entirely false story about former Labour leader Michael Foot.

Posters appeared around the country saying, 'Michael Foot is a Russian spy.' The newspaper got the story from Oleg Gordiyevsky, a deserter from the KGB who was living in Britain, protected by MI6.

Gordiyevsky claimed Foot was a paid informer working for Russian diplomats. The story was completely made up, and when Foot took the paper to court he won £30,000 in damages.


It took over 75 years for the truth to be admitted

ONE OF the most famous forgeries took place in 1924 with the 'Zinoviev letter'. This produced a 'red scare' which helped defeat the first ever Labour government.

Labour prime minister Ramsay MacDonald had been in office for just under a year. His government had tried at every turn to prove itself as a safe pair of hands for the rich and big business. But that didn't stop the right wing from doing everything it could to discredit it.

MacDonald had started negotiations with the Russian government, in order to retrieve debts owed to Britain. On the eve of the general election the right wing Daily Mail published a copy of a letter (it never produced the original) which was supposedly written to the British Communist Party by Grigori Zinoviev.

Zinoviev was the president of the Comintern – the international grouping of socialists who supported the 1917 Russian Revolution. The letter called on Communists to mobilise 'sympathetic forces' in the Labour Party and talked of creating dissent in the armed forces. Today everyone accepts that the Zinoviev letter was a forgery. But it took 75 years for the authorities to officially admit the truth.

At the time the Tories and their supporters defended it robustly. Sir Austen Chamberlain, the foreign secretary, said in 1928, 'It is quite evident that our sources of information are thoroughly trustworthy, but would not be available if they were made public.'

Public records that were released in the 1990s showed that the MI6 spy agency had destroyed key documents relating to the Zinoviev letter during the 1950s. And in 1999 a study by the Foreign Office revealed that Stewart Menzies, a future head of MI6, whose 'allegiances lay firmly in the Conservative camp', had sent the letter to the Daily Mail.

The Foreign Office investigation concluded, 'White Russian intelligence services were well developed and highly organised, and included the operation of a forgery ring in Berlin. It seems likely that they asked either those forgers, or their contacts in the Baltic States with similar skills, to produce a document which would derail the [Anglo-Soviet] treaties and damage the Labour government.'

The techniques which were used in the 1920s remain in the armoury of the intelligence services. They will use them whenever they feel it is necessary.


The 1990s

Scargill was attacked as the enemy within

A VICIOUS witch-hunt was launched against miners' leader Arthur Scargill in 1990. The Tories and MI5 wanted to take revenge on Scargill, who Margaret Thatcher had called 'the enemy within', and all those who had taken part in or supported the 1984-5 miners' strike.

Their allegations were published in the Daily Mirror by its owner – millionaire press baron, crook and Labour Party member Robert Maxwell. Scargill was accused of taking money from Libya to pay off the mortgage on his house.

Roger Windsor, the NUM's chief executive during the 1984-5 strike, claimed that Scargill had cleared out £70,000 from money supposed to go to strikers to clear his £25,000 home loan from the NUM.

There were also stories about misuse of money donated by Russian miners and money being moved through Swiss and Irish banks. Socialist Worker was almost alone when it immediately launched a strong defence of Arthur Scargill and the NUM.

The Tory government, Labour Party leaders and every mainstream newspaper went along with the witch-hunt. Deputy Tory prime minister Geoffrey Howe announced in parliament that the police were ready to act against Scargill.

Even after the central allegations in the campaign had been comprehensively discredited, Labour leader Neil Kinnock attended personally to hand out the 'Reporter of the Year' prizes to the Mirror journalists responsible for peddling them.

He had himself photographed with the reporters in an extravagant showbusiness pose. The smears were shown to be lies. An independent report by Gavin Lightman QC ruled that the mortgage story was 'entirely untrue'.

In March last year the highest court in France found that Roger Windsor had himself signed documents that he claimed were forged by Scargill. The court ordered Windsor to repay a debt of £29,500.

Two months later, in May 2002, Roy Greenslade, who was editor of the Mirror during its witch-hunt against Scargill, admitted that it had all been lies. He apologised to Scargill, who he called a 'wronged man', and wrote, 'I am now convinced that Scargill didn't misuse strike funds and that the union didn't get the money from Libya.'

As Seumas Milne wrote in his book about the British state's war against Scargill and the miners, The Enemy Within:

'They showed themselves prepared to encourage any and every method available – from the secret financing of strikebreakers to mass electronic surveillance, from the manipulation of agents provocateurs to attempts to 'fit up' miners' officials – in order to discredit the union and its leaders.'

Links

Seumas Milne, The Enemy Within.

Paul Foot, Who Framed Colin Wallace?
Unfortunately both of these books are out of print, but are in many libraries.


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Article information

Features
Sat 3 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1849
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